Principality of Sealand

The Principality of Sealand is a micronation located on HM Fort Roughs, a former World War II Maunsell Sea Fort in the North Sea 10 km (six miles) off the coast of Suffolk, England.

Since 1967, the facility has been occupied by former radio broadcaster British Army Major Paddy Roy Bates; his associates and family claim that it is an independent sovereign state. External commentators generally classify Sealand as a micronation. It has been described as the world’s smallest nation. Sealand is not currently officially recognized as a sovereign state by any United Nations member.

In 1943, during World War II, HM Fort Roughs was constructed by the United Kingdom as one of the Maunsell Forts, primarily for defense against German mine-laying aircraft that might be targeting the estuaries that were part of vital shipping lanes. It comprised a floating pontoon base with a superstructure of two hollow towers joined by a deck upon which other structures could be added. The fort was towed to a position above the Rough Sands sandbar, where its base was intentionally flooded to allow it to sink to its final resting place on the sandbar. The location chosen was in international waters, approximately six miles from the coast of Suffolk, outside the then three-mile territorial water claim of the United Kingdom. The facility (called Roughs Tower or HM Fort Roughs) was occupied by 150–300 Royal Navy personnel throughout World War II; not until well after the war, in 1956, were the last full-time personnel taken off HM Fort Roughs.

Occupation by Roy Bates and the establishment of Sealand

On 2 September 1967, the fort was occupied by Major Paddy Roy Bates, a British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, who ejected a competing group of pirate broadcasters. Bates intended to broadcast his pirate radio station Radio Essex from the platform.

In 1968, the Royal Navy entered what Bates claimed to be his territorial waters in order to service a navigational buoy near the platform. Michael Bates (son of Paddy Roy Bates) tried to scare the workmen off by firing warning shots from the former fort. As Bates was a British subject at the time, he was summoned to court in England following the incident. The court ruled that as the platform (which Bates was now calling “Sealand”) was outside British jurisdiction, being beyond the then three-mile limit of the country’s waters, the case could not proceed. In 1975, Bates introduced a constitution for Sealand, followed by a flag, a national anthem, a currency and passports.

Forcible takeover

In 1978, while Bates was away, Alexander Achenbach, who describes himself as the Prime Minister of Sealand, and several German and Dutch citizens staged a forcible takeover of Roughs Tower, holding Bates’ son Michael captive, before releasing him several days later in the Netherlands. Bates thereupon enlisted armed assistance and, in a helicopter assault, retook the fort. He then held the invaders captive, claiming them as prisoners of war. Most participants in the invasion were repatriated at the cessation of the “war”, but Achenbach, a German lawyer who held a Sealand passport, was charged with treason against Sealand and was held unless he paid DM 75,000 (more than US$ 35,000). The governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed all responsibility, citing the 1968 court decision. Germany then sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach’s release. Roy Bates relented after several weeks of negotiations and subsequently claimed that the diplomat’s visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany. Following his repatriation, Achenbach established a “government in exile” in Germany, in opposition to Roy Bates, assuming the name “Chairman of the Privy Council”. He handed the position to Johannes Seiger in 1989 because of illness. Seiger continues to claim—via his website—that he is Sealand’s legitimate ruling authority.

  • 1990: The Royal Maritime Auxiliary vessel Golden Eye was fired upon from Sealand in defence of their claim to the waters surrounding Roughs Tower to the extent of twelve nautical miles.
  • 1997: Because of the massive quantity of illegal passports in circulation (estimated at 150,000), the Bates family revoked all Sealand passports, including those that they themselves had issued over the previous twenty-two years.
  • 2006: On the afternoon of 23 June 2006, the top platform of the Roughs Tower caught fire due to an electrical failure. A Royal Air Force rescue helicopter transferred one person to Ipswich hospital, directly from the tower. The Harwich lifeboat stood by the Roughs Tower until a local fire tug extinguished the fire. All damage was repaired by November 2006.
  • In January 2007, The Pirate Bay attempted to buy Sealand after harsher copyright measures in Sweden forced it to look for a base of operations elsewhere. The deal fell through.
  • 2007: Sealand was offered for sale through Spanish estate company InmoNaranja.Since a principality cannot technically be sold, Sealand’s current owners plan to transfer “custodianship”. The asking price is €750 million (£600 million). Plans for an online casino have been announced.
  • In January 2009, The Kingdom of Marduk claimed ownership of Sealand, saying it was not mentioned in treaties after the Second World War and so can be claimed by anyone. Michael Bates dismissed the claim as that of an “imposter”, and Sealand News said, “Marduk has popped up before”.
credited to wikipedia

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